Friday, September 16, 2016

Divination 2

1. Describe the geographical and temporal distribution of your chosen symbol set. If the symbol set was used cross-culturally, describe how each culture used your chosen symbol set. (min. 300 words)
            The Greek Alphabet Oracle is a divination set that is based upon an inscription found in Olympos, an ancient city of Lycia (Sophistes). This inscription describes oracles tied to each of the letters in the Greek alphabet, which I find interesting because Lycia is no longer a part of Greece.  Lycia is located on the Teke Peninsula in southern Anatolia, which is now Antalya and Mulga on the coast of Turkey. This peninsula extends into the Mediterranean Sea.  Lycia is also the home of the Taurus mountains, which form a barrier between the inner plains of the peninsula and the coast (Cate).  These mountains provided safety and refuge from the sea.  The city of Lycia was established during the Hellenistic age and continued to be prosperous through at least the fifth century AD.  Olympian burial chambers and sarcophaguses have been found just outside of this city, which one of the many connections between Lycia and ancient Greece (IstanbulNet Project).   
Lycia was a part of the Hittite territory during the late Bronze Age and was filled with speakers of the Luwian, Lycian, and later Persian languages.   There was a large influx of Greek speakers into this area after the Persian war and, ultimately, Lycia was Hellenized under the Macedonians (Lycia).   Athenian tribute lists from 469 B.C. contain several references to tributes received from Lycia, however, these references stop around 440 B.C (Cate).  This is yet another clue that shows us the connection between the Greek and Lycian people. Throughout the fifth century, the influence of Greece on Lycia continues to be prevalent.  Lycians borrowed the art techniques from the Greeks, and many pot shards of Greek origin have been found throughout Lycia.  Additionally, Lycian coins resembled the coins of the Greeks, and Greek letter abbreviations are found on several of these coins.   There are also tombs that have writing both in the Lycian language and in the Greek alphabet, showing that the language had been intermingled into their culture. 
The lands of Lycia are mentioned occasionally in the mythos of the ancient Greeks, and was named as the land that was ravaged by the Chimera (Khimaira).  All these signs show to an intermingling of the Lycian and Greek people and their cultures.  This obviously lead to the Hellenization of the Lycians, and them adopting the Greek language.   The inscription of the Greek Alphabet Oracle found in Lycia does seem to indicate that the oracle was utilized in both the city of Lycia and throughout the Greek territory. 
While there are few other references to the use of this specific symbol set, and no evidence that points to the Greek Alphabet Oracle expanding beyond this area, there are many other instances of alphabet-type oracles being used in other cultures, as well as the drawing of lots, such as the use of the Elder Futhark Runes.    For example, in Bura there was an oracle of Herakles Buraikos.   Here they practiced a method of divination using dice and a tablet. The oracle would pray before the image, then cast four dice onto a table. They would then compare the symbols of these dice to the meanings on the tablet to determine the outcome of their divination (Halliday 212-213).  This is just one example of how divination was utilized in Greek culture.

2.  Describe the division of sacred and profane use for this symbol set in cultural context (i.e. how was the symbol set used in everyday life, and how was it used in religious contexts?). If you find no such division, explain why you think that the set was either entirely sacred or entirely profane in the culture. (min. 300 words)
            The Greek Alphabet Oracle uses the letters of the ancient Greek alphabet, typically carved into lots, sticks, or disks, to perform divinations.  The symbology utilized is most easily recognized as the letters of the Greek language, which makes it clear that the symbol set had a much larger use in the profane world than it did as a sacred tool.  However, I believe that the sacred and profane were intertwined in many ways.
            Greek is one of the only languages that are still spoken after existing for 3500 years (Adrados).  Common Greek first begins to be found around 2000 BC in northern Greece.  It continued to change and evolve as the Greek people came in contact with different cultures.  The Greek alphabet was derived from the Phoenician alphabet, and was probably acquired for use in trade.  Additionally, it was frequently used to record Homeric poetry (Adrados 66) and other writings.  The letters in this alphabet are still used today in modern Greek writing, making it much easier to translate ancient texts.  However, the alphabet is also regularly utilized in English speaking countries as well, being employed as constants in modern mathematics and scientific formulas, and in social organizations like fraternities and sororities, making them easily recognizable for many English speakers as well. 
In the Greek Alphabet Oracle, each symbol itself is tied to a sentence that, when written in Greek, begins with the letter it represents. The letter that was inscribed on the drawn lot was matched with the corresponding sentence beginning with that letter on the tablet, and it is this connection that gave the diviner their response (Halliday 215).  However, even in this “sacred” context, the Greek Alphabet Oracle was regularly utilized in mundane affairs.  For example, the writings of Plutarch tell a story that describes the use of drawing lots in the selection of the successor to the Thessalian (Halliday 212). There are also numerous tales of seers being utilized in military efforts in order to make decisions on how to best proceed.  This consistent intermingling of sacred and profane gives the Greek Alphabet Oracle has been very interesting to explore, and seems to indicate that religious practices were interwoven throughout their daily lives.

3.  Describe the life of a seer in an Indo-European hearth culture, their techniques of divination, and the respect they received. (min. 600 words)
Seers played an important role in the ancient Greek culture. The ancient Greek word for seer is “mantis” (Flower 2) and Homer tells us that seers are public workers and were always a welcomed guest. The mantis played an interesting role in Greek society, acting not only as diviners, but also as healers and personal advisors for those who came to them.  These seers were not viewed in the same manner as priests, but they were seen as religious specialists and often performed purification or other workings for their clients. 
It was typical to have a mantis available to military leaders during times of war as well.  They regularly performed sacrificial divination during warfare to help provide guidance and clarity to the troops.  There were two separate types of divinations performed during periods of war, campground sacrifices, and battle-line sacrifices.  Campground sacrifices were performed by examining the entrails of a sacrificed animal, while battle-line sacrifices instead consisted of slitting the throat of an animal and watching the movement and flow of blood to determine the message (Flower 24). These sacrifices were done in a public setting, and had a heavy influence on the morale of the army.  The public nature of these divinatory practices does give some indication of just how important divination was to the ancient Greek soldiers. 
Ancient Greece also presents us with a wide variety of divination methods used by the seers outside of battlefield environments.  Manties were known to utilize augury where they interpret the presence and behavior of birds, as well as performing dream interpretations.  Spirit possession was also utilized by oracles, such as those found at Delphi.  However, even outside of war, the most common method of divination seems to have been extispicy, the examination of entrails from sacrificial animals (Flower 24). 
Within Greek lore, the most prominent Seer would be Pythia, the oracle of Apollo in Delphi.  This oracle lived in a temple of Apollo and was often consulted upon for matters of law, war, and religion.  In Delphi, Pythia sat on top of a deep crevice in the ground to practice her divination. The priestess would enter a trance state, which included extreme bouts of ecstasy and divinations that were spoken in an intelligible language (Luck 37-38).  No one knows exactly how these women entered their trance state, but there are many theories including a simple ritual of wearing special vestments, touching holy water, and intoxication from fumes that were escaping from the crevice they were sitting upon. They used this trance state to connect to the otherworld in order to perform their divinations.
The oracle was often consulted when there were changes to be made to the property of the gods, or if there was a new priest that was to be dedicated (Mikalson 42).  The oracles of Greece also held the power to establish new cults, institute new festivals, and require sacrifices.  All of these descriptions show us that Pythia was very important and highly honored within the Greek culture, and that her word was often the final say in debates and arguments.  However, at Delphi, prophecies were only given on the seventh of each month, so her availability to the general public was limited, which is why we see the presence of the travelling mantis as well.  Even if someone showed up to Delphi on the right day and could afford the cost, it was not guaranteed to receive an answer from the oracle (Flower 2). 
While Delphi is the most well-known temple for oracles, it was definitely not the only one.  Three priestesses delivered the oracles at Dodona, and may have done so by drawing lots (Flower 217).  There are also mentions of oracles at Patara and Trophonios (Halliday). There are also numerous vases which represents two warriors casting lots in front of an image of Athena.  The abundant variety of seers in the writings of ancient Greece indicate both how important divinatory practices were within their society, as well as how regularly available they seemed to be. 

4.  Describe what you have done to connect with this symbol set on a spiritual level, where your ideas came from, and how it has affected your method of learning this set. Some examples might include (but are not limited to) carving or sacrificing for your runes, gathering each kind of tree for a set of ogham, or doing volunteer service at your local zoo to get more closely acquainted with the behaviors of animals. (min. 600 words)
            Connecting with the Greek Alphabet Oracle has been a wonderful experience for me.  I originally started practicing divination nearly twenty years ago when I bought my first tarot deck, but I’ve never connected with a symbol set in a way that I feel connected to these lots. I’m sure the familiarity I already had with Greek mythology played a large part in this.  I also know that receiving a gift of handmade disks from someone special to me also made my connection to them particularly sentimental and meaningful.  However, I did still have to do work in order to become comfortable and familiar with the oracle on a more spiritual level. 
            When I first began really working with this set, I began by performing daily drawings of a single disk. At the beginning of each day, I would wake up, light some incense, and pull a single lot as a part of early morning routine.  I would study the symbol on that disk, focusing on its shape and the feeling of it in my hand.  I would see if I could remember the sentence it was tied to, either reciting it to myself, or looking it up when necessary. I’d then take a few minutes to do a brief meditation on the meaning of that symbol and how to apply it throughout the day ahead.  This daily pull was a great practice for me and helped to start building a deep connection with my oracle.  It also gave me the opportunity to better understand the symbol set and to familiarize myself with the disks I was working with.  Over time, the daily pulls changed to a less frequent practice, yet each time I went back to these stones I could feel that bond with them again.  The consistent work built a lasting connection with my lots that was intense and beautiful.
            In addition to the work with the symbol set, I began researching the mythology tied to each of these sentences. I read about Helios and his role in the world of the Greeks.  I performed regular rituals honoring Apollo to help build my abilities to work as a seer.  I read the myths and the history of Greece to try to truly understand the culture that these symbols came from.  I also worked to play closer attention to the cycles of harvest around me, watching for the things that allowed for bountiful harvest, and seeing the withered shoots where they had been poorly tended.  I tried to see the symbols played out in the world around me to give them a different connotation than just words on paper.  The oracle set has allowed me to be more aware of the environment I live in, and the effects of human interaction on the natural world.  This relationship has definitely helped me to deeper my understanding of the oracle itself.
            Finally, on a more mundane level, I also used two methods to try to get more familiar with the symbols and their collaborations. First, I made a smaller set of flashcards with the symbol and name on one side, and the associated oracular sentence on the other.  I would carry these with me in my bag, even reviewing them at my desk at work to make sure I understood the symbols themselves and the meanings behind them.   I also utilized Rev. Rob Henderson’s “Grammantis” app on my Android phone to continue the study in situations where I may not have the flashcards available.  This mundane practice helped to re-affirm my spiritual connection with the symbol set, and also helped to establish a strong understanding of the symbols and their meanings.
            At this point, I’m very pleased with my connection to the Greek Alphabet Oracle.  However, I also understand that I will have to continue working with the symbol set to keep that relationship. I also know that the connection to these symbols will continue to evolve over time, and I’m excited to see where that evolution leads.

5.  Describe the overall symbology of a chosen divination method as well as each individual symbol in that set. Review and compare to your answers to this question from Divination 1, explaining how and why those views have changed over time. (min. 600 words for the descriptive essay, and 100 words per symbol)
The Greek Alphabet Oracle is a divinatory symbol set based upon inscriptions that were found in Olympos, an ancient city of (Sophistes).  This divination set uses the letters of the ancient Greek alphabet, typically carved into lots, sticks, or disks, to perform divinations.  This form of divination is made up of 24 stones or other small items that have been marked with each of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet.  Each of those letters has its own meaning and a tie to a message, beginning with that letter when written in Greek.  These oracular phrases are tied heavily to Greek mythology, including references to Apollo and Helios, while also exploring many different harvest themes, including both success and difficult harvest seasons. 
When I first began working with the Greek Alphabet Oracle for Divination 1, it was something that I was very inexperienced with, so my work at that point was simply to learn the symbols and the meanings behind them.  I also quickly realized that there are several different iterations of the Greek alphabet, so I decided that I would continue working exclusively with the modern Greek alphabet.  This was the alphabet that I was already familiar with to some extent, and I believe this knowledge allowed me to fully comprehend this symbol set a little easier than if I had chosen to work with symbols that were completely foreign to me.    It was one of the many reasons that I wanted to work with this method of divination as opposed to runes or ogham.  The alphabet had a comfort to it that I was happy to work with.  It almost felt like meeting an old friend after many, many years and working to build a new relationship because you’ve both grown and changed so much since you last met.  There is familiarity and comfort, but also the need to grow and learn to work together.  I enjoyed that experience. 
Over time, I’ve come to realize that each of these symbols is tied to much more than their simple oracular phrase.  While the initial sentence gives you a reminder of what message the symbol holds at this point it feels almost like a mnemonic device to help remind me of the story that lives deep inside the letter.  It’s a very effective way to share a large message in a very brief manner.  As I mentioned in the previous question, I’ve also started to become more aware the cycles of the natural world and their relationship with humans, and how this relationship is connected to the Greek Alphabet Oracle symbol set. 
However, the one thing that hasn’t changed is my preferred method of divination in this system, which is also probably also the easiest method to use.  Each of the stones or disks is placed into a bag or container that you cannot see through.  The stones are mixed together and a single stone is blindly pulled from the container.  The answer to your question can then interpreted from the symbol that is on the stone that you have drawn.   This can also easily be modified to pull multiple stones for different reasons, such as pulling three separate stones during an ADF ritual to determine the message received from each of the three Kindreds.  This simplistic type of divination makes it so that you don’t have to memorize a layout or specific order of events in addition to the meaning of the stones themselves. It also is reminiscent of other lot pulling divination systems, such as the use of runes or ogham, so it has a familiar feeling for people if utilized in a public ritual format. 
The Greek Alphabet Oracle was made up of twenty-four Greek letters.  Below you will find my description of each symbol in the set.  The initial sentence for each letter is how I described the symbol in my Divination 1 course, which is a paraphrased understanding of the definitions originally provided by Apollonius Sophistes.  The rest is my updated explanation of what each of these symbols mean to me now.  The very last sentence in each paragraph gives a short phrase or sentence that I use to remember the symbol and its meaning.
·    Α – Alpha – To bring about success and good fortune (Sophistes).
Alpha is a symbol of success and brings with it positivity and accomplishment. For me, alpha represents the idea that current goals or projects will be prosperous if you continue moving forward.  It’s also a message that you are on the right path and should trust your instincts.  In my readings, alpha has also signified the end of a struggle, where things can come out in a positive way despite doubts or heartache.  Essentially, it says that things will turn out well, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will turn out the way you thing they would.  However, ultimately, it is a message of success and that alone can be a very positive message in readings. With alpha, I try to remember it simply by saying “All things are good.” 
·    Β – Beta – With luck you will find help but the responsibility is yours (Sophistes).
            Beta is a symbol that reminds that sometimes we need help to be successful. It’s a message that reminds us to be willing to ask for help when we need it.  Beta shows us the potential for assistance, but also says that we must be willing to ask for that help in order for it to be received.  For me, it often represents vulnerability because many people are afraid or ashamed to ask when they need some assistance, but it is that asking that is vital to the success of certain tasks.  At its core, for me, Beta is the idea that you must “Be willing to ask for help.”
·    Γ – Gamma – You will have a successful harvest (Sophistes).
            Gamma is another positive omen in this symbol set and expresses the idea of a successful harvest.  Successful harvests require hard work and extensive planning, but if you are willing to put the work into it, you can be prosperous.  That is what this omen describes.  You’ve done the work, and now you are at a point that you can benefit from your efforts and reap your rewards.  Gaia is the earth mother, but she also represents the earth in general. By Gaia allowing you to succeed, the world will see you triumph in your projects.  “Good harvest. Thanks Gaia!”
·    Δ – Delta – Inopportune force will not be effective (Sophistes).
            Delta is a symbol that tells us to be cautious in our actions.  It is a message of timing and using the appropriate level of force in order to be successful moving forward.  While initially this may seem to be a less positive omen, for me it often represents the idea that you can be successful, but you must ease yourself through the process without trying to force something to happen.  It’s a message of balance and allowing yourself to relax a little bit in your efforts.  It doesn’t mean that you will fail, but it does mean that you need to look at the situation, and let it work out the way it is supposed to.  Essentially, “Don’t force it!”
·    Ε  - Epsilon – Desire to see offspring from a fruitful partnership (Sophistes).
            Epsilon is a message of desire and potential.  Instead of reflecting what the outcome of a situation will be, this omen instead expresses the wishes of those involved.  Epsilon acknowledges a desire for positive outcome or successful harvests from work that is being done.  However, this omen does not guarantee that this will be the case.  Instead, it simply acknowledges that the desire exists.  This omen specifically speaks of relationships, but is not strictly romantic involvements.  The omen could refer to any sort of partnership, yet the desire for successful growth stays nonetheless.  You want to see growth from the seeds you have planted with someone else.  It’s a message fertility on many different levels.  Epsilon is “Enthusiasm for growth.” 
·    Ζ – Zeta – Avoid raging storms and flight is wiser than fight at times (Sophistes).
            Zeta is a message to pick your battles. However, this isn’t a message that is telling someone to be passive in their interactions.  For me, this symbol is actually a message of forethought and planning.  The omen itself says that you shouldn’t make voyages in bad weather, which tells us to look ahead try to be prepared for the journey instead of making a decision that could be potentially disastrous.  However, this symbol also tells us to not fight the ocean, which is just another way of saying that you shouldn’t waste your energy on a fight that you cannot win.  Select your battles and be smart with those you choose to take on.   “Zoom away from fights!”
·    Η – Eta - The Sun watches over you (Sophistes).
            Eta is one omen that I feel my understanding has most changed. Initially I saw this symbol on a very surface level, showing that the Sun watches you, which in general seems like a very positive omen.  And there are still times when that understanding applies.  Performing a midsummer ritual to honor Helios, and knowing that the he is watching, it’s a positive reaction.  However, Eta also reminds us that Helios is the enforcer of oaths.  When Helios watches, he knows when you do things well, but he also knows when you are not true to your word.  I think this is the symbol that my interpretation varies the most depending on the situation at hand.  “Hey, Mister Sun!”
·    Θ – Theta – The Gods will guide and help you (Sophistes).
            Theta reminds us that we are not alone because of our relationship with the Gods.  It is a symbol that the Theoi, the gods and goddesses, exist and are here on this path with us.  This is one of my favorite omens to receive, because it is a quick reminder that we are not alone on this journey and that we have the support of the Shining Ones on the many roads of our lives.  They see our actions and appreciate them.  Because of our relationship with them, the Gods will help us along the way.  It’s a reassuring message to know that you are not alone, but instead that you are both seen and appreciated.  “The Gods are with you”
·    Ι – Iota – Work is never done, but hard work means success (Sophistes).
            Iota is a symbol that represents continual hard work, and the benefits and successes that come from that work.  Iota is a symbol that I have grown very familiar with throughout the past couple years.  It’s an omen that I have received in my personal practice repeatedly, continually telling me to keep moving forward, keep putting in the effort and that it will all work out in the end.   However, this omen isn’t one of short-lived projects.  For me it has come to represent persistent effort and determination in order to keep moving forward. “I work hard to be successful.”
·    Κ – Kappa – Over time it is easy to be worn down.  Try to persevere (Sophistes).
            Kappa is a symbol that speaks of endurance and struggle.  In my experience, this omen often appears when someone has been fighting a long battle of some sort in their life and are looking for guidance on how to move forward.  It’s a message that acknowledges that it is hard to endure without being worn down, but to keep going and hold your ground. It’s not necessarily a message of success, but instead, at least for me, it feels like a message of hope.  This omen says that things have been hard, but to keep going. “Keep your head up.” 
·    Λ – Lambda – A sinister thing may be a blessing in disguise (Sophistes). 
            Lambda is a symbol that represents a blessing in disguise, or an unexpected resolution to a situation that has a positive outcome.  Many times, this is not the message that people want to hear because it tells them that good things can come from bad situations.  However, it is nice to know that occasionally there is a light at the end of a dark tunnel.  Lambda is also a symbol that speaks of “going through” which can insinuation that those involved may either currently be dealing with a situation presently, or that they may have something they have to work through in the future, but ultimately this situation will work out for the best.  “Low times may be a blessing.”
·    Μ – Mu – Change can be made through hard work (Sophistes).
            Mu is yet another symbol of hard work and the positive outcomes of it.  Mu symbolizes the necessity of strenuous work, but it also says that the work will pay off in the end.  For me, Mu is also a symbol of change and potential, showing that you can transform a situation or path that you wish to change, but that it will take work to be able to make that change happen.  The potential for change is an important part of this symbol for me because, while there is potential for the change and success, this possibility also requires serious effort in order to happen.  “Must work for success.”
·    Ν – Nu – Something will be given that brings strife with it (Sophistes).
            Nu is the symbol of a strife-bearing gift and the challenges that may come with it.  However, it also expresses the idea that this gift fulfills the destiny, fate, etc. of the person who receives this present.   This gift may not be a physical item but instead an additional responsibility or a new skill instead.  Initially, I felt that this was a negative omen, but over time my opinion has changed slightly.  This symbol does not necessarily mean that the outcome will be negative, but instead seems to point to struggle and trials that come the gift.   However, despite these struggles, it is possible for the gift to lead to positive outcomes, despite the turmoil that it may bring with it.  “Not all gifts are easy.”
·    Ξ – Xi – It doesn’t help a situation to be harsh or angry (Sophistes).
            Xi is a symbol that I most often express as “don’t polish a turd” (Sophistes).  It’s not the most eloquent phrasing, but definitely gets the message across very bluntly.  Essentially, this symbol tells me to be realistic with my expressions and expectations.  It often appears when people need to take responsibility for their actions, and understand the role they may play in a situation.  Xi also describes harshness, and shows us that being callous will not lead to a positive outcome. Occasionally, this symbol ultimately points out that someone is not handling things appropriately, and that they may consider adjusting their attitude to be successful.  “eXpect appropriate rewards.” 
·    Ο – Omicron – What goes around comes around (Sophistes).
            Omicron is the symbol of being responsible for your actions.  To me, Omicron and Xi are very similar messages of taking responsibility for your actions.  However, while Xi says we should be aware of our actions, Omicron shows us that our actions have a reaction, whether good or bad.  If you put negativity into the world, you can expect it in return, but if you express yourself in a way that is loving and helpful the world will return that as well.  It speaks of foresight and the ability to be able to plan your actions in order to receive the reward that you desire.  “Offer what you wish to receive.”
·    Π – Pi – If you persist in your struggles you will persevere (Sophistes).
            Pi is a symbol that represents perseverance.  I find this very interesting, considering the mathematical correspondence of pi, and the infinite, ongoing persistence of the number it represents.  Persevere through hardship and tribulations.  Even when you struggle and things are hard, even when life doesn’t lead you down the path you expect, or when life is hard, you can be successful if you keep moving forward.  While Kappa reminds us to keep moving forward, Pi speaks of success if we continue to battle through our trials.  It brings with it a message of hope that seems less present than in Kappa.  “Persevere!”
·    Ρ – Rho – You will go faster by waiting than by going right now (Sophistes).
            Rho appears to me as a message of patience.  By avoiding impulsive behavior, you can find success.  Rho reminds us that there are times when we can move forward more easily than if we are tolerant and steady instead of reacting thoughtlessly or behaving in a reckless manner.  This message doesn’t tell us to remain still forever, but instead tells us that we should wait for a while before jumping ahead. It is a message that reminds us that we will move forward eventually. Rho expresses the idea that patience will allow things to move ahead more smoothly than if we try to force our way through to completion too quickly.  “Remain calm, and wait!”
·    Σ – Sigma – Hold your ground (Sophistes).
            Sigma is a symbol to hold your ground and to not take action.  While many other symbols tell us to persevere or wait for the appropriate action, this omen specifically tells us to stop.  While worded kindly as “Stay, friend” (Sophistes) this omen tells us that we need to hold our ground and not push forward or move backward.  It is a symbol that represents steadfastness, but also tells us not to continue with our current actions.  It doesn’t require that we backtrack in our steps, but instead tells to stay where we are right now.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but it’s one of the few omens that actually give direction for how we should proceed in our actions.  “Stay, friend.” 
·    Τ – Tau – Growing apart or separating from a person in your life (Sophistes).
            Tau is a symbol that represents the separating of someone or something from your life.  This may not be a permanent change, but there will be a period of time when something that is currently present in your life will no longer be around in the way it is now.  This may be a positive change, where negative influences in your life decide to leave you be, but it may also be the growing apart of relationships, intentional or not.  This is another symbol that often requires some insight into the current situation in order to fully apply it appropriately.   “Together no more.”
·    Υ – Upsilon – There is an issue (or issues) that needs to be resolved (Sophistes).
            Upsilon is a symbol that tells us that there is work to do, but that it is meaningful work in this case.  This symbol represents some problem that needs to be solved, or some deed that needs to be undertaken.  Taking action in this instance is honorable and virtuous.  This symbol almost feels like the opposite of Sigma.  Instead of being told to stop, we’re told to take action, and that moving forward with our work is a good decision.  It’s another one of the symbols that actually gives us direction in how we should proceed in our actions instead of just giving us insight into the current situation.  “Unresolved issues.”
·    Φ – Phi – Take responsibility for your actions (Sophistes).
            Phi is the symbol that teaches us of the responsibility and ownership of our own actions.  It insinuates that someone has done something careless or thoughtlessly and need to be willing to be held accountability for the consequences of those actions.  Phi tells us that we cannot blame those around us, either on a profane or mundane level.  Our actions are our own, no matter the influences, and we need to be willing to either stand up for them, or take responsibility for them when they do not work out the way we intended.  This doesn’t mean that you cannot ask for help, but it only shows that we need to take ownership before we can proceed.  “Phased or not, take responsibility for your actions.”
·    Χ – Khi – Obtaining your goal (Sophistes).
            Khi represents success and the completion of goals, but it’s also a message of potential.  However, despite my initial understanding, this symbol does not guarantee success.  Instead, it states that success will fulfil the oracle, which I interpret to mean that you are intended to accomplish your goals.  This still gives you the opportunity to fail if you do not move forward with foresight and thought.  The omen itself doesn’t speak of caution, but it something that I feel necessary to apply. Because Khi doesn’t explicitly say that you will succeed I understand it to mean that there is potential for failure if you don’t exhibit some attentiveness in your actions.  It is the potential for success that this symbol brings instead of the guarantee of it.  “CharKHas weave potential for success.”
·    Ψ – Psi – Collective judgment of a situation will be fitting (Sophistes).
            Psi is a symbol of righteous judgement.  This does not necessarily mean that the judgement will work in your favor, but instead that the judgement given will be unbiased and evenhanded, and the decision will be just.  This omen is often difficult for me to interpret, because it essentially comes across as “things will work out how they should” but alone they don’t give us any indication of the actual outcome.  Because of this, it is easiest to interpret in a multi-stone drawing by combining it with the other symbols.  Because of that, even if I had intended to draw just a single lot, I draw additional stones if this is the omen I receive.  “Pseudo answer of judgement.”
·    Ω – Omega – There will be a poor harvest (Sophistes).
            Omega is a symbol that speaks of a difficult harvest season.  It’s a time where things are challenging to endure.  This could be because of lack of effort, but it could be that you tried as hard as you could, but the conditions just weren’t right. It’s nearly impossible to grow melons in the desert.  Omega is also the last letter of the Greek alphabet, so for me it represents the end, so harvest seems to be appropriate symbolism, as harvest is the end of the growing season.  It means the end of growth and the necessity to be ready now, without the ability to continue trying to thrive.  It’s a difficult omen to receive, but unfortunately it’s also a very realistic message at times.  It’s this honesty that I appreciate from the Greek Alphabet Oracle.  “Omen bring difficult times.”

6.  Describe the primary sources available regarding your chosen symbol set, explain the place of inspiration in your interpretations, and describe how the synthesis between historical source work and inspiration plays in your personal practice. (min. 1000 words)
            The Greek Alphabet Oracle has only one primary source for the symbols used in this divination method.  This source is an inscription that was found in the ancient city Lycia known as Olympos (Sophistes).  This inscription includes twenty-four oracular phrases, each beginning with a different letter of the Greek alphabet. It is that beginning letter that was used in the divinatory drawings, with the letter corresponding back to the oracular phrase.  There have been references made to other inscriptions in different locations, but finding images or translations of those texts is much more difficult.  Nearly all sources utilize the writing at Olympos for this symbol set.
Having a single primary source for this divination method does have pros and cons.  Being the only source means there are not multiple interpretations to try to decipher to determine which one works best for you.  Instead, there is only one translation, making it a more consistent message to try to learn.  However, there are numerous sources for the letters themselves, which can make things somewhat confusing if you are used to seeing the Ionian symbol for Xi Ξ and instead see the Euboean symbol x (Cook 9). 
There are several sources that describe the use of lots in ancient practices, which does give us some information about the method, even though we have limited source material about the symbols themselves.   There were places in Greece where drawing a lot would select the champion to go into battle, as well as playing a role in democratic traditions (Halliday 206). Pindar speaks of the use of lots in Pythian IV saying “And then the prophet Mopsus, divining by birds and sacred sortilege, embarked the army readily” (Pindar).  There are temples in Ephesos where decorated lots were found, which archeologists believe to have been used for divination.  Early coins of Hypaipa and Tarsos also regularly depict images of knuckle bones, which were frequently for divination as well (Halliday 207).   Even the Odyssey has descriptions of decision making via lots when tokens are placed into a bronze helmet and the selected lot chooses which man must leave the ship and go on land on Circe’s island (Homer).  There are also similar descriptions in many different cultures, including Rome, where the Latin word “sortilegium,” is described as a technique of divination using lots, or sortes.  Practitioners of this method of divination were known as “sortiarius” or sorcerers (Luck 469). 
Only having one source for the symbols specifically does means that it can be a challenge to dig deeper into the meanings, such as the trouble I described when trying to interpret Psi.  If there were other sources to pull from, I may be able to gather additional information.  At this time, I’m stuck using my personal experiences, knowledge of Greek culture and mythology, and inspiration to make these interpretations.
Because of a lack of source materials, I do believe that inspiration is an important part of my practices with this symbol set.  While I always begin with a description of what the symbol represents, I definitely incorporate my own personal inspiration in each drawing.  The more in depth I want the reading to be, the more inspiration that needs to be required.  When performing the divinations, not only do the symbols I draw matter, but the thoughts and feelings that arise as I pull them.  Those thoughts and emotions influence the words that I share and the interpretation I give of the symbol chosen. It helps make the reading more personal, and gives me an avenue to further explain what it is I’m trying to say instead of being stuck with just the basic definition we are given in the primary source.
In addition to inspiration, I also try to take into account the sources we have about the mythology these symbols are tied to and the historical information about the culture in order to help make my omens feel as historically accurate as possible.  Within the original inscriptions, there are mentions or insinuations of many deities and myths, and I try to draw upon those when appropriate to help fill out the reading as necessary.  For example, the original inscription tells us that Gamma represents the phrase “Gaia will give you the ripe fruit of your labors” (Sophistes).  However, if the person listening to your reading is not familiar with who Gaia is in mythology this phrase will have very little meaning for them.  Incorporating an explanation of Gaia as the earth, and the mother of creation (Atsma) helps build the understanding of why this goddess in particular would bring this blessing.  You could also use inspiration by calling her “Gaia, divine earth, mother of men and the blessed Gods” or something like this, which makes the interpretation brings some beauty and makes it feel more poetic while giving the explanation.
There are many other instances where I utilize a similar method of combining historical sources and inspiration to make my interpretation.  Beta tells us “With the help of Tyche, you will have an assistant, the Pythian.”  Without context as to who Tyche and Pythian are this sentence is essentially meaningless.  You have to understand that Tyche is the goddess fortune and chance and that Pythian is the title of the Oracle at Delphi. Interpretation requires additional information outside of the primary source to make sense to people.  This is the case for many of the symbols and their meanings.  
In my personal practice, I utilize a strong combination of history, mythology, and inspiration to make an interpretation of the reading I take.  I begin with the historical information from the primary source, giving the basic information that comes with it.  I build upon it by giving a mythological correspondence and explanation to any key figures that are described in the symbology.  I then complete the reading by using inspiration to apply the message to the question at hand.  This combined method works well for at this point but I’m sure it will continue to evolve and change as my work with this symbol set continues.
7.  Maintain a journal of regular divinatory practice (entries at least weekly; daily is ideal) for 5 months. At the end of that five month period, write an essay reflecting on the importance of daily practice; the results seen (including whether your ability to work with this symbol set has increased and why you think it has); and your feelings about the symbol set's strengths and weaknesses after this period of work (min. 1000 words)
On December 31, 2015, with a brand new year looming in the darkness, I began a 5-month cycle of journaling for divination, trance, and magical workings.  The work was deep and introspective on a whole new level and I’ve learned a lot about myself and my path during this time. For my divination practices, I chose to continue working with the Greek Alphabet Oracle.  I had used this system for divination in previous study courses, but it still felt fairly new to me, with a deep connection that I wanted to harness.  However, despite my lack of confidence with the Oracle, it seemed like the appropriate symbol set for me to take on this journey with me.  I will admit that I started out this five-month period unsure of my skills and feeling relatively new to the Greek alphabet oracle.  Nonetheless, I was determined to become more comfortable and do the work I needed to build my divination skills. 
Initially, I began this journey by doing daily pulls.  I would wake each morning, light some incense, and pull a single stone as a part of my daily practice.  After doing the reading, I would do a brief meditation on the meaning of that symbol and how to apply it throughout the day ahead.  This daily pull was a great practice for me and allowed me to better understand the symbol set and to familiarize myself with the disks I was working with.  I continued to do these daily pulls for several weeks, trying to apply the symbol into my life in a mindful and meaningful way.  Often, I found that the messages were positive and uplifting, telling me to that I would have a great day (Alpha – You will do everything successful).  However, I also saw several omens that were much less positive.  Unfortunately, because of these “negative” omens, doing daily pulls seemed more harmful than helpful for me.  I am someone who has always struggled with anxiety and depression.  Receiving a message at the start of the day telling me that I would lose a friend (Tau – Parting from companion) or that I will have a bad day (Omega – Difficult harvest season) put me in a very negative mindset that was hard to recover from.  I would give extra offerings and say a few words asking for strength or patience, but the omen stayed in the back of my mind.  It seemed to become a self-fulfilling prophecy, despite my best efforts to stay positive.  When I came to this realization, I decided that I needed to try a new approach to my divination journaling. 
I considered doing my daily draw in the evening instead, but as someone who works full time and has a family, my evenings are often hectic and overly busy so it seemed like I would be setting myself up for failure.  Instead, at that point, I decided that I would take a step back and do a pull at the end of each week to reflect, so beginning February 6, 2016, that’s exactly what I did.  I’m happy to say that this seemed to work much better for me. 
Saturday mornings, I wake up and perform a short Core Order ritual, honoring the Kindreds and the Earth Mother.  During the omens section of the ritual I pull three lots.  The first of these lots give me my message for the week I have just completed, helping me to gain clarity on my experiences and advice for moving forward.   The second lot represents the upcoming week and the knowledge I should have on hand to be successful.  The third lot represents the overall summary of my life in general, whether positive or negative, and the work that I should be focused on at that particular moment. These combined omens give me the opportunity to reflect on my week and look at it from a new angle, while also gaining new information about my experiences and foresight for the upcoming week at hand.  In addition to this weekly ritual, I also perform Sunday morning rites to honor my ancestors where we have tea together.  I will pull a single omen during that time to receive a message from my ancestors and to aid my communication with them.  My work with the ancestors helps me gain new information and insight about myself and my relationship with them.  I also utilize my divination set after my monthly priest trance workings to receive any additional knowledge or messages that I need.  With this new schedule in place, I felt much more positive about my efforts. Throughout the week, if I did any additional ritual or magical working, I would continue to do omens as appropriate, so quite often I would still do an omen several times a week.  However, this new plan allowed me to use the omens as a form of reflection and guidance and to become more connected and pleased with my progress instead of feeling anxious.  This weekly schedule has worked out so well for me that it is still the practice I maintain today, almost seven months later. 
Overall, I believe that this continued practice has definitely helped me to improve my comfort and familiarity with the Greek Alphabet Oracle, and with divination practices in general.  I now understand the meanings of the symbols and how to interpret them in different situations. Not only am I confident in my ability to use the Greek Alphabet Oracle in my personal practice, and I’m also more comfortable doing the omen during my grove’s public rituals.  This development is incredibly useful on a practical level.  I originally started doing divination when I was only twelve years old, working with many different symbols sets to try to find something that worked for me.  I’ve explored everything from tarot to palmistry and this oracle set is the first set that I have found that I am comfortable using on a regular basis, so I’m very pleased with the results of this journey.
So, what has made this symbol set something that works well for me?  First, I will say that I believe my connection to my disks is incredibly personal.  Not only do they fit the hearth that I am most comfortable in, the disks themselves were made for me by Rev. Jon Drum as a gift at my ordination, so I feel an emotional attachment to them as well.  Additionally, the symbols are characters that I’m already familiar with from previous education in math and science, which gave me a stepping stone to start with and continue working to build.  I didn’t have to learn a new set of symbols and then the meanings that went with them.  Another area that I believe aided me is my familiarity with Greek mythology.  This knowledge played a large role in not only understanding the symbols themselves, but also in interpreting the messages in general.   I understand who Helios is, and what it means to have him watching over you.  This type of connection allows for me to feel more content with the symbol set.  Finally, as someone who grew up in a rural part of Nebraska, I can deeply connect with the agricultural themes present in several of the symbols.  However, I can also see how some of these benefits for me would be a challenge for someone who didn’t have a background similar to my own. 
There are some weaknesses in this symbol set as well.  There is really only a single source of information for the Greek Alphabet Oracle, which means that there are not alternative interpretations to make, or a large pool of information to use to understand or connect with these symbols.  Also, it is less well known overall so if you are doing readings for others they may not connect with the symbolism on the same level as other symbol sets.  I can also see how this set would be a challenge for a beginner because it does require some base knowledge to use them successfully, including the knowledge of the Greek myths and their alphabet system, as well as an understanding of agricultural cycles.  Additionally, there are several omens that appear to be quite negative, giving it a poor reputation with some.  However, from my experience, these negative omen possibilities make a positive omen even more meaningful.
Ultimately, when I began on this journey at the end of 2015, five months seemed like a long time, and this course seemed like a very long path to take.  Today, I stand on the other side of it, and it seems like 2016 started just days ago.  I know I have learned a lot about myself and my divination practices, but I also know that there is always more to learn.  While this course only encompasses five months of my specific practice, I don’t feel that there is an actual end to the work.  Technically, the work for this course was completed by June 1, 2016, but I’ve continued to maintain this work beyond that day, continuing my practices in divination and ritual on a weekly (or more frequent) basis.

8.  Describe your method of taking an omen or doing divination in your private practice, from start to finish. Include any prayers said, deities invoked, or sacrifices made. (no minimum word count)
Performing omens in my personal practice are typically pretty simple undertakings.  I do not perform daily omens at this point in my practice, so most often my omens are taken in the midst of a ritual. I begin by taking a few deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth.  I then call upon a deity with divinatory connections to aid me.  Most often I call to Apollo, but I’ve also called upon Brighid when I’m doing healing working, as well as Kamrusepa from Hittite mythology, the Moirai from the Greeks, and the Norns of the Norse.  I give an offering of whiskey and say a short, extemporaneous invocation to whomever I am asking to aid me, such as “Brighid, glorious goddess of healing and prophecy, you who know so much and help so many, I ask you to guide my hand.  Let the world speak through me.”  I then reach into my bag of lots, and pull out three separate symbols to take my omen. The interpretation is done quietly, without speaking.  Occasionally I will feel the need to do an additional drawing for more information, or I will take the time to meditate on these symbols and how they apply to my life, but this does not happen every time I take an omen.  The drawn disks are placed on my altar and left there for the remainder of the ritual.  I then record them and their meaning after the rite has ended.  
There are times where I will perform divinations when I am not in the middle of a ritual.  These omens are often even less formal and include me asking a question silently to myself, taking a deep breath, and simply reaching into the bag and pulling out the message I am supposed to receive.  Deep breathing allows me to enter a very light trance, which is easy to recover from, so I can use this method even at my desk at work, or in the middle of the day if necessary. However, I use this method much less frequently than the ritual method I have described.

9.  Describe the results of nine divinations you have done for others (without assistance from a book). (min. 300 words per reading, and 600 words for a summary)
For all of the readings I have listed below I used the Greek Alphabet Oracle symbol set.  For many of these readings, I mention that I utilized a layout called “Khi”, which I will describe in the summary below.   Any reading that uses a different layout or number of lots will be explained in the reading itself.
1)    Wedding -- 10/10/15
·      Kappa – Endure friend
·      Alpha – Everything successful
·      Mu – Hard work = Good return

On October 10, 2015 I had the honor of performing the wedding for a member of my grove and her partner.  Before the ceremony, I took a few minutes with the couple to discuss any last minute concerns or changes they wanted to make.  We then did a brief meditation to relax and prepare.  They wanted their omen to be a private message, so after the meditation, we did a simple three lot drawing with the Greek Alphabet Oracle and pulled Kappa, Alpha, and Mu, which we determined to be a very appropriate and positive message to receive on their wedding day. 
Kappa is a symbol that reminds us to keep your head up.  It speaks of endurance and continuing to push forward when things are hard.  As I said before, this message isn’t a guaranteed message of success and accomplishment, but it does bring with it the hope for a positive outcome.  For a couple who is preparing to get married, this omen seemed to be a message to remind them that sometimes things may be a challenge, but to endure and together they can make it through. 
The next lot I drew was Alpha, which tells us that all things are good.  Alpha represents success and positivity. It tells us that things will turn out well if you keep moving forward, despite any doubts that may exist. In the terms of relationships, Alpha shows us a positive relationship with team work and efficient communication.  The couple were very happy to see this omen as a reaffirmation of their marriage.
The final symbol I drew was Mu, which tells us we must work for success.  Mu says that hard work can bring positive outcomes.  Within this context, Mu shows us that marriage isn’t always easy, and sometimes it will be easier to give up.  Instead, Mu shows that by working together when things are hard, it will make the relationship a positive one.  symbolizes the necessity of strenuous work, but it also says that the work will pay off in the end. 
Overall, this message set a very positive tone for the wedding ceremony we were about to perform.  The couple were very happy with this message and it put us all in a great mood to perform the ceremony. 
2)    Friend -- 11/7/15
·      Tau – Parting from companions
·      Kappa – Endure friend
·      Omega – Difficult harvest season

One of my friends was going through a very difficult time in her marriage, and ultimately they decided to file for divorce.  No one anticipates that their marriage will end, so my friend was quite heartbroken and came to me to talk about life for a while.  In this conversation, she asked me to do a quick reading for her, partly for fun, but also because she wanted to know what message the world had for her during that difficult time.  I did a simple three lot drawing again and pulled Tau, Kappa, and Omega.   
Tau seemed like a very appropriate symbol for this situation, representing that companions will be together no more, or that something will be leaving your life. Tau is a message of change, showing that things will no longer be the way that they are right now. As I mentioned previously, this symbol typically requires insight from the current situation to be applied appropriately.  In this instance, my friend was going through a divorce and moving out of their family home.  This struggle, the separation, and the changes happening in their life were clearly reflected by this symbol.
The next symbol I pulled was Kappa, which reminds us to keep your head up.  While the message itself talks of struggles, it also reminds us that it’s important to keep fighting and moving forward.  It’s difficult to endure, but it’s so important to do so.  Kappa tells us that things may be hard right now, but to try to stay positive because eventually this storm will pass and things will be ok. This message was a nice reminder to my friend during this difficult time.
The final symbol pulled was Omega, which the symbol of difficulty and conclusions.  Omega represents the end of growth and development, and a time where things may be more problematic.  In this instance, I reminded my friend that was not a sign of failure, because sometimes no matter how hard you work if the seeds aren’t good or the conditions aren’t right, you still can’t make a plant grow no matter how much work you put into it. While this is a difficult omen to receive, it also felt fitting for the situation.  The end of their relationship, despite the work they tried to put into it is easily seen in the symbolism here.
Ultimately, this drawing focused on the current circumstances my friend was going through, pointing out the separation and difficulty.  However, it also held a glimmer of hope, telling my friend to hold their head up and keep moving forward, even though things are hard right now.  She has divorced her husband and gained custody of her children.  She seems happier now than she was when we did this reading.

3)    Grandmother -- 12/5/15

·      Delta – Inopportune strength is weak
·      Lambda – Blessing in disguise
·      Psi – Righteous judgment
·      Eta – Helios watches

            My grandmother is an incredible woman who has had a strong influence on my life.  Her appreciation for the plants, animals, and the world around her was a vital part of my childhood, and definitely played a role in my lifestyle and my own spiritual path.  She has always been opinionated, as well as a hard worker, amazing mother, and wonderful wife.  Unfortunately, her husband, my grandfather, has been battling lung cancer for the past year and it has definitely been very hard on her as well.  When I went home last winter, her and I were visiting about my practices and the healing work I had been trying to do for my grandfather to help ease his pain.  Ultimately, this lead to me describing divination, and surprisingly, she asked me to do a drawing for her.  Using the Khi layout I described above, I drew Delta, Lambda, Psi, and Eta.
            Delta was the first symbol drawn.  It reminds us to try to find balance in our lives.  It tells us to be cautious in our actions and to try not to force anything to happen.  My grandmother had been putting so much time and effort into my grandfather’s health.  We all appreciate it, but we also know that she needs to relax a bit and let things happen the way they are supposed to. This was a hard message for us to see, but it also made sense in this situation.
            The next symbol I drew was Lambda which represents a blessing in disguise.  I almost didn’t share this message with my grandmother.  Hearing that cancer is a blessing does not seem appropriate at first glance.  However, I tried to show her that his illness has allowed us all to remember just how much we mean to each other, and that we are all going through this together.
            The third symbol in this reading was Psi, which is the symbol of righteous judgement. In this situation, Psi represents the idea that things will work out the way they are intended to. This isn’t a positive omen necessarily, but a message of fate, and trusting the world to move forward on its own.
            The final lot I drew was Eta, which reminds us of the bright, watching sun.  I told my grandmother that the Sun sees her actions and intentions, even when she feels alone.  In this instance, it’s a message that she isn’t alone in the world, that no matter what, there is always someone watching. For her, it was an affirmation that the nature is still blessing her life, even when the world feels wrong. 
            This was probably the hardest drawing I have ever had to do.  It was heartbreaking to see my grandmother so vulnerable, but it’s a moment that I’m so grateful that I got to share with her.   My grandfather is still battling cancer, but my grandmother is handling things as well as she can. 

4)    Orion -- 3/4/16

·      Alpha – Success
·      Iota – Work is never done
·      Tau – Parting from Companions
·      Theta – Helping gods on this path

This year, my son turned seven.  He’s a very curious child and loves to be involved with my practice in many different ways.  On the morning of his birthday, I was cleaning my altar when he came in and started looking at my Greek Alphabet Oracle.  He asked what they were for and I tried to explain it to him the best that I could.  He then asked if I would show him, so I decided to do drawing for his seventh birthday using the Khi layout.  I drew Alpha, Iota, Tau, Theta. 
Alpha is a symbol of positivity and joy.  It’s a symbol that things will be good going forward.  Alpha reminds us that all things are good.  For my son’s birthday we took this message to say that his seventh year of life will be filled with happiness and joy.  It’s a great message for his birthday.
Next drawn was Iota, the symbol of success brought on by hard work.  It tells us to keep moving forward and things will work out in the end.  In this message I told my son that while things will be good during the next year, he still has to work hard to be responsible and kind to those around him, both at home and at school.
The third symbol drawn was Tau, which represents the parting of companions.  My son is a very charismatic person and makes friends easily, so he was sad to hear this message.  However, I reminded him that in just a few months he will be finishing first grade and moving on to second, where he will leave some classmates behind and make new friends, just like he did the year before.  He seemed to be ok with that message, and said that even though they weren’t in his class anymore, it didn’t mean they couldn’t still be his friends. I have to say that I agree. 
The final lot I drew was Theta, which reminds us that the gods are with us.  They see our actions and our path in life, and they walk along it with us.  While my son doesn’t know what he believes at this point, he knows there is something in nature that he appreciates.  We took this message to say that he is on the right path, and to keep doing what he is doing. 
Overall, this was a very fun and lighthearted reading to do.  It was a fun bonding moment with my son, while also being a bit educational for him.  He completed first grade, and is now anxiously awaiting the start of second. 

5)    Sister -- 3/30/16

·      Gamma – Success
·      Mu – Hard work = Good return
·      Zeta – Flee the storm les you be disabled (don’t fight inevitable)
·      Upsilon – Noble undertaking

This spring, my younger sister had to have reparative knee surgery.  She had never had a major surgery before so she was incredibly nervous.  We were discussing calming strategies and I was trying to reassure her that things would be ok.  She asked if I’d be willing to do a reading for her to see what the cards said.  I was a bit nervous because I wasn’t sure what to expect, but decided we would try it out and see what happened.  It ended up as a very positive omen, drawing Gamma, Mu, Zeta, and Upsilon.  
Gamma was the first symbol I drew.  It symbolizes a successful conclusion to the work you have done.  Often, with this symbol, the success is a product of your own efforts. In this case was interpreted to mean that while it has been hard work to get to the point where she was ready for surgery, including many appointments, time off work, and doctor visits, but now she has reached the conclusion of this part of the work and things will turn out well.    It doesn’t mean that the work is over, but that this part will end successfully, which is a good start.  
Mu also represents hard work and positive outcomes.  It shows that by working hard, you have changed your path and that things will go well. Our hope is that this symbol means that by continuing to work and getting to this point, maybe the surgery will reduce the amount of pain she was in. 
The next symbol we drew is Zeta, which tells us to flee the storm.  Zeta represents the idea that you need chose which battles to fight, and which ones you cannot win. This message again means forethought and planning, which is what was required for this surgery.  For me, this message was slightly entertaining.  My sister had been fighting the need for surgery, but ultimately it proved necessary.  She tried to fight, but eventually was worn down to see reality. 
The final symbol was Upsilon, which again speaks of work.  It was definitely a recurring theme throughout this reading.  Something needs to be fixed, and the work you are doing will help that happen.  Taking action in this situation is appropriate, and honorable.  We interpreted this to mean that taking the initiative to fix this problem, i.e. the surgery, is appropriate. 
Overall, my sister was pleased to see that things were going to work out ok.  She isn’t someone who puts a lot of weight into these types of readings, but I think that it helped her feel a little calmer nonetheless.  I’m also pleased to say that surgery did go completely as planned and my sister has recovered very well.

6)    Family member -- 5/10/16
·      Eta – Helios watches
·      Omicron – What goes around comes around
·      Omega – difficult harvest season
·      Theta – Helping gods on path

I had a member of my family who was offered a new job.  It would be a promotion with more money and more opportunities.  Unfortunately, that job meant he would have to move a thousand miles away from all family and friends, to a new place with no support.  He didn’t know how to proceed.  This drawing was one of the ways we tried to process his decision.  We drew four lots in the Khi formation described above. 
            The first symbol we drew was Eta.  Eta represents Helios, the ever present sun, and enforcer of oaths.  It took some talking to try to interpret this symbol in this situation.  Ultimately, we decided that no matter where he went he wouldn’t be alone.  Someone was always watching his back and looking out for him.  It also meant that he had to be sure to keep his word, no matter what decision he makes. 
            Next was Omicron, the symbol of taking responsibility for your own actions. In this case, it shows that this decision will be his decision to make, but that he has live with the consequences of that decision.  This omen still doesn’t give us an answer on the appropriate action to take, but does make it clear that he’s the only one who can make that decision.  He needs to look ahead and decide which plan he wants to move forward. 
            The next lot I drew was Omega, a difficult harvest season.  We knew going in that this was going to be a challenging decision to make, and this symbol clearly represents the strain.  We also knew that neither decision was ideal and that each had its own challenges.  Staying meant keeping a job that he didn’t really enjoy with less pay and terrible hours.  Going meant leaving all his loved ones behind and starting over on his own.  He had this opportunity because of his hard work, but that work lead to this difficult time.  Omega also represents endings, and making a decision would lead to finales in one way or another. 
            The final lot was Theta, which is a reminder that we are not alone on this path.  I found it interesting that the beginning and the end of this reading reminded my family member that he was not alone on this journey.  While things are difficult and decisions have to be made, no matter what he has love and support.  

7)    Partner -- 5/18/16

·      Psi – Righteous judgment
·      Beta – With luck, you will have help
·      Lambda – Blessing in disguise
·      Iota – Work is never done

Just a few days after my family member had to make a decision about a new job opportunity, my partner also received two job offers.  Fortunately, neither of these positions would require him to relocate, but he still had an important decision to make between these two positions.  I once again turned to my Khi layout to do a four stone drawing for this discussion. In that drawing, I pulled Psi, Beta, Lambda, and Iota.
            The first symbol I drew was Psi, which is the symbol of righteous judgment.  While I typically view this symbol as an appropriate judgment being made by someone else, I interpreted this symbol in this situation to represent the idea that he would make the appropriate decision.  This decision should be as unbiased as possible and evenhanded, but ultimately the decision is yours to make. The omen tells us that things will turn out exactly how they should, but that doesn’t really give us any guidance on what decision to make.
            The next symbol was Beta, the symbol that tells us that sometimes we need help to be successful.  Beta represents vulnerability and the necessity of someone to ask for help in order to move forward. In this instance, the fact that my partner came to me to discuss this decision was represented by this symbol.  It shows us that, while the decision is his to make, it is perfectly acceptable to ask for help, and talk through the options before making a choice.
            The third lot pulled was Lambda, a blessing in disguise.  This lot was a bit confusing to me initially, but after some thought I decided that this omen means that while the decision making process is difficult, it will work out well in the end. Lambda also represents the process of going through a process, which seemed appropriate in this situation.
            The final stone I drew was Iota, the symbol of continual work and the success it brings.  My partner is a very hard worker who is very intelligent and dedicated to his work.  His continual work in his field has allowed him to achieve many accomplishments, including leading him to multiple job offerings and companies bidding against each other to hire him.  This omen represents those characteristics in him.  However, it also acts as a reminder that the work never ends and to keep working hard to continue his path forward.
            Overall, this reading shows us that while this decision is challenging to make, and it’s ok to talk it over with those people he respects and trusts, ultimately the decision is his to make, but that he will make the appropriate decision in time.    

8)    Sister -- 5/28/16

·      Lambda – Blessing in disguise
·      Pi – Perseverance
·      Alpha – Everything successful
·      Iota – Work is never done

It has been a challenging year for my family in many ways.  One of the most recent trials my family has faced was the unexpected death of my cousin, who was only thirty-two years old when he passed away.   While he had some health issues, we were not aware of any that were life-threatening.  One of my sisters took his passing incredibly hard, and in one night of mourning she asked me if I would do a reading to see if he had any messages to pass along to us.  While I don’t typically do this type of reading, I told her I would try.   It was an intensely emotional reading, but I hope that it helped my family in some way. 
            In this reading I pulled four stones in the Khi formation.  These were Lambda, Pi, Alpha, and Iota.  Lambda is a symbol that represents a blessing in disguise.  This was very hard to see.  It’s difficult to believe that the death of a loved one can be a blessing in any way.  However, he did not suffer and was not in any pain.  He had a short, difficult life, and this message seems to point out that his passing was for the best.  It is still not an easy message to see, and caught me off guard.  Again, Lambda also speaks of “going through” and in this moment we were definitely in the process of dealing with the situation directly.
            The next symbol was Pi, which tells us to persevere.  In this moment, I did feel the energy of my ancestors, telling me to stay strong and to help my family continue to move forward.  They want us to keep our heads up and push forward, even when things are difficult to understand.  It was a message to tell us to push through this, just like we’ve pushed through so many other difficulties. At this point, I drew Alpha, which tells us of success and positivity.  Combined, I believe that our ancestors were telling us to keep our heads up and persevere, because it was all going to be ok.  It was difficult to hear in the moment, but it did hold some reassurance within it as well.
            The final symbol I drew was Iota, which is the message of continual, hard work.  This lot tells us that we need to keep putting in the effort to be ok.  Keep pushing forward, keep doing the work that we’ve been doing, and ultimately things will turn out ok.    It was definitely a challenge to receive such a “positive” reading in a time that felt so very dark and sad.  However, I do believe that this message in general was encouraging in some ways as well.  My cousin’s passing was difficult, but the fact that he went quickly with no pain was a blessing.  While it’s hard for those of us who he left behind, we need to keep doing the work and persevere, and ultimately we will all be ok. 

9)    Mom -- 5/30/16

·      Kappa – Endure friend
·      Theta – Helping gods on this path
·      Iota – Work is never done

My mother has spent most of her life living in a small town in Nebraska.  She often doesn’t understand my spiritual path, but she’s also very open to trying to comprehend why I do the things I do.  She’s very curious about my path, and often asks questions to try to learn about it, and I appreciate her willingness to learn, and her openness to my spirituality.  She had heard from my sisters about the readings I had done for them over the past couple of months, and she wanted to know if I would do one for her.  She didn’t have any real questions, but she was curious to see what would come out of it, so I obliged, doing just a simple three stone draw.
            The first symbol I pulled was Kappa, which is a reminder to keep head up.  This message symbolizes endurance through your battles.  My mother has not lived an easy life, and I saw this as a message for her to keep going forward.  I told her that this symbolizes her endurance, and also shows that it is hard to stand your ground when you feel like everything is falling apart.  In this instance, it’s definitely a message of hope.
            The next symbol we pulled was Theta, which acts as a reminder that you are not alone on your journey.  My mother isn’t Pagan, or religious at all really, so I didn’t describe this as a message that the gods are with her.  Instead, I generalized this symbol, reminding her that even when things are hard, she doesn’t walk in this world alone and there are many that stand by her side.  I told her that this is a sign that she’s moving in the right direction, and to keep doing what she’s doing.
            The final lot I drew was Iota.  Iota describes continual hard work and the success that comes with that.  It once again tells you to keep moving forward.  This symbol is a message of long-term progression and persistent determination.  My mom knows what she wants out of life, and needs to continue working toward those goals. I think this very generic reading gave her some ideas on how to proceed with things, even though she didn’t ask any specific questions.  I hope that this also was a way to open a door of communication with her, and will allow her to be comfortable asking for more information in the future. 

In the reading above, I frequently used a layout that I refer to ask “Khi.”  This is a very simple layout that I created, using four lots or stones.  Each lot is drawn individually, and when placed in front of you they form an X or a box.  These lots are laid out just as you would draw the Greek letter Khi, or the Latin letter X, by placing the symbols in the 1) top right, 2) bottom left, 3) top left, and 4) bottom right. In some readings of my personal practice, I refer to these four as the 1) Shining Ones 2)Nature Spirits 3)Ancestors and 4)Summary.  However, for these drawings it was simply utilized as physical layout to keep things organized and flowing.  I chose to use Khi, because is a symbol that means “succeeding will fulfil the golden oracle.”   By using this letter as my structure, I feel like it brings a deeper meaning to the reading for me, even if the person I am reading for doesn’t realize that the symbol is there.  Khi seemed appropriate because of its meaning, both because it will help make the reading successful, but also because this success is what brings the golden oracle to life. By basing the entire reading in this hidden symbol, I feel that it helped to keep me focused on the intent of the working, while also bringing a unique energy of its own.
Each of the readings that I performed above were done for my friends and family.  Some of them came to me in times of sadness or fear, while others were just looking for someone to talk to.  The performance of these readings were more often spur of the moment than planned out ahead of time, which gave them a very raw and unrehearsed feeling that seemed appropriate.  Yet somehow many of them became very intimate bonding experiences between me and the person I was doing the reading for.  I’m sure part of this is because they are all people I care about deeply to begin with, and doing readings for strangers would allow me the opportunity to be less directly connected to the situation.  However, I do have to say that I really enjoyed this process, even when it was difficult.  Hearing people talk about their lives, their hopes and their fears, their successes and their failures, and knowing that they trusted me with that information was such a beautiful experience.  Sometimes the people were overwhelmed with emotions and there were tears or hugs.  Other times, they were grateful and filled with a sense of calm or reassurance at the messages I had to share.  I felt incredibly blessed to be able to share these people with each of the people.   
I’ve continued talking with each and every one of them since these readings were completed to see how the oracle messages played out, and just to make sure that the people I care about are all ok.  This is one other area that makes me appreciate the people that allowed me to perform readings for them.  Reading for strangers often means that once the reading is over you have no further information about how things progress, if you were accurate or completely off base, or if things turned out in a way that was unexpected, yet fitting for the omen.  Reading for my friends and family allows me to continue watching their journeys unfold, and to reconsider the readings to see if I missed anything along the way.  I appreciate having the ability to do this because it allows me to continue learning and growing, while also taking care of those important people in my life.

10. Describe the method you would use for drawing an omen in public ritual, how it is different from any private practice you do, and how it is different from taking an omen for another individual. (min. 600 words for the essay)
My method of taking an omen in a public ritual, I do use a much more formal presentation, as well as a deeper trance induction. Additionally, when I am in a public setting, I try to be more theatrical, projecting my words and essentially telling a story with my words than when I am on my own. 
When it is time for me to take an omen in a public ritual, I begin by planting my feet firmly on the ground and taking a few deep breaths in through my nose and out through my mouth.  This begins my movement into a light trance state and grounds me in the ritual space. I keep the bag with my oracle in a pocket in my dress, so they are with me through the entire ritual.  I pick up a handful of dry bay leaves in my right and crush dry bay leaves in the palm of my hand.  I pull the crushed leaves up close to my face so I can smell the bay strongly.  I then speak an invocation to Apollo, letting my words blow softly through the leaves and into the space around me.  The invocation isn’t the same every time, but it is typically something along the lines of “Apollo, mighty god of the Sun, poetry, and oracles I call to you now.  Guide my hands, help me to see, speak through my voice.  Let us hear the message we need to receive.” These words, combined with the sound of the crunching bay leaves, the texture of them in my hand, and scent of the crushed bay leaves deepen my trance and allow me to focus intently on the omen work I need to do.  I put these bay leaves into the fire if it is available, or into the offering bowl if we are doing a ritual inside.  I then walk to the center of our ritual space and pull my oracle set out of my pocket.  I slowly kneel on the ground, spreading my dress in a fan in front of me to use as a cloth. I then reach my hand into my oracle bag and dig through it until I find the first disk that “feels” like the right one. 
At this point, I look up at someone in my grove who acts as my prompter and she asks “Do the Kindreds accept our offerings?”  I pull the first disk out of the bag and place this face up on my dress in front of me while saying the name of the symbol and a brief meaning of it, ultimately telling the prompter whether or not our omens have been accepted.  If they haven’t, we perform a piacular offering and say some sweet words and perform this process again.  If our offerings have been accepted, I continue forward, once again looking to the prompter who asks “And what blessings do the Kindreds give us in return.”  I repeat the drawing process twice more, speaking the name and meaning of each symbol turn.  After three have been pulled, I take the three symbols together to create a general message appropriate for the working at hand, utilizing the meaning of the symbols, mythology, and inspiration to speak the message to the ritual participants.   I then pick up the three disks, and place them in one pocket, with the bag going into the other pocket to keep them separate for recording after the ritual.  At the end of the rite, I record the omen in my journal and any important messages that came with them and then return the oracle disks to their bag. 
This theatrical approach to performing an omen works very well for public rituals.  However, it is very different than when I’m performing a reading for another individual.  In my experience, those readings are much less formal than those performed in a ritual context and are often impromptu instead of planned activities.  Often the individual and I will be sitting together in their living room when these readings occur, which is a very different than a large public setting.  In that moment, I reach for my stones and say a short, silent prayer to Apollo and then ask for the information I am looking for.  I rarely have offerings to give in that moment and I try to keep a very light trance for these workings because it is important to me to be able to effectively communicate with the other person, and to read their body language and emotions without getting too lost in my own head.   I also interpret the stones slightly differently for an individual because we are often asking about a specific event so I can mold the meanings of the omen to the specific topic.  

11.  Give and explain the results of three omens taken by you in public ritual. (min. 300 words per omen)
11/7/15 – Ancestors Samhain Ritual
·      Alpha – Everything successful
·      Omicron – What goes around comes around
·      Theta – Helping gods on this path

Each year, my grove performs a Samhain ritual with no specific hearth that is dedicated to the ancestors.  This year was no different.  We honored our ancestors as the deity of occasion, fed them, gave them drinks, and shared our stories of our departed loved ones with each other.  There were laughs, and there were tears, but overall it’s always a beautiful bonding experience.  When it came time to the omen, I turned to my Greek Alphabet Oracle lots to do the reading.  I made an offering to Apollo and asked that he guide my hands to receive the messages we needed to receive.  I then knelt in the center of our ritual space and begin my reading.
The first letter I drew was Alpha, which is a message of success. This symbol tells us that we have done good work and that we will achieve all of our goals.  In a public ritual, we typically as if our offerings have been accepted.  By pulling Alpha, this is a resounding “YES”.  It’s a message that our ritual has gone well and that our work and offerings are appreciated.  I share this affirmation with the participants of the ritual, and look to my prompter for the next part of the reading. 
She asks “What blessings do the Kindreds offer to us tonight?” and at that point I draw two more lots, giving a brief definition of each before combining all three stones for our final message.  Here I drew Omicron, what goes around comes around, followed by Theta, which reminds us that we are not alone on this path.  Omicron tells us that we are responsible for our own actions, and that if we put positivity into the world, we will receive it in kind. Theta shows us that we are walking through life with loved ones at our side. Combining all three symbols gives a very positive message.  The Kindreds see our work as a very positive work, and when you put good things into the world you will receive those in return.  They walk beside us in this journey, giving us gifts just as we do for them. 

3/19/16 – Grove Spring Equinox Ritual (Slavic)
·      Kappa – Endure, friend
·      Alpha – Everything successful
·      Zeta – Flee the storm

This year, for the spring equinox my grove decided to perform a Slavic ritual, honoring Jarilo.  We pride ourselves on utilizing diverse hearth cultures in our public rituals, even when none of our members specifically follow the hearth, which is the case for the Slavic culture.  We do typically try to match the divination method to the hearth culture at least when it’s possible, however, no one was familiar with any Slavic divination techniques.  Because of this, when it came time to decide who should do the omen, I volunteered to once again use my Greek Alphabet Oracle.    We performed this ritual outside, in between bouts of light snow and sunshine, and as the sun began to set, we all huddled closer to the fire and tried to stay warm.  When it came time for the omen, instead of reaching out to Apollo vocally as I normally would, I called to him silently while making my offering to him. I then knelt on the cold ground and pulled three lots: Kappa, Alpha, and Zeta. 
When my grove asked if our offerings had been accepted, I pulled Kappa which represents endurance and pushing through struggles.  It acknowledges that sometimes it’s hard to keep moving forward, but to stay strong in our fight.  As we stood in the darkness with the snow falling around us, we knew that they appreciated us fighting the urge to go inside.
The grove then asked what blessings we receive in return, and the first stone I pulled was Alpha, which represents success and positivity in all things.  While we struggle and push through, things will work out well for us.  It shows us that we are moving in the right direction, and should continue our efforts to be successful.  Ultimately, all things are good.  The symbol I pulled next was Zeta, which is typically a less positive omen that tells us to pick our battles.  While this could be part of the case here as well, reminding us to keep moving forward while still being selective about which fights we decide to take on, we all giggled as we realized its alternative meaning…flee the storm.  It felt in that moment as if my oracle had made a joke, telling us it was time to go inside and get warm again.    We took these symbols combined to mean that we’ve pushed through our struggles and will continue to move forward and choose our battles wisely, but ultimately we will be successful.  We also graciously agreed that it was time to flee the storm.

4/30/16 – Roman Beltane Ritual
·      Zeta – Flee the storm
·      Upsilon – Affair holds noble undertaking
·      Eta – Helios watches
·      Beta – With fortune, you’ll have help

            At Beltane this year, my grove performed a Roman rite honoring Ceres the warmth and growth she brings to the world.  We had been asked to perform a public ritual outside of the local metaphysical shop, so we were in a new environment with new people, which always makes things interesting.  Once again, we called upon my trusty Greek Alphabet Oracle to perform the divination for this rite. As I knelt, I fully intended to do the typical three stone draw.  However, despite the heat of Beltane, the sky decided at that point to open up and light rain extinguished every flame in our ritual.  Being the dedicated people that we are, we knew the show must go on!  I reached into my bag to pull out the first omen and actually laughed when I saw the result…Zeta.  Flee the storm.  In that moment, I felt like my oracle was taunting me, but in a playful and fun way that I have never experienced before.  I looked to my prompter and instead of sharing the message I asked her to ask the question again, so she repeated herself “Do the Kindreds accept our offerings?”
            At this point, I drew Upsilon, the symbol of a noble undertaking.  This symbol tells us that we have work to do, but it is meaningful and progressive work.  Our work is virtuous and filled with good decisions.  In this instance, we determined that the Kindreds saw the effort we were putting in to these rituals, and appreciated that work, even though we still have room for improvement.  We accepted this as a positive omen.  
            The grove then asked what blessings we were to receive, and I pulled Eta and Beta.    Eta is a symbol that I remember as “hey mister sun” and of course in that moment the rain stopped and the sun shone brightly on us again.  The sun watches us and sees all that we do.  He holds us to our oaths, and has high expectations for us.  Beta reminds us that sometimes we need to be willing to ask for help to move forward, but that this vulnerability can allow us to be successful. Combined, the message of this omen was that our work is noble and appreciated, and that the Kindreds see us and all that we do, and that it’s ok for us to ask for help to continue moving forward. 

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